Javier Guerra, SS, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore): Glove
Guerra’s prospect stock took a hit this year after a tough campaign in the Cal League, but his glove certainly wasn’t the culprit. In my looks Guerra showed as a heads-and-shoulders defender at the six spot, and the class of the league. He leverages lateral agility and quickness to offset notably unimpressive foot speed, and his range is an above-average asset in spite of the fringy speed tool. The hands are exquisitely soft, and the actions are as fluid as they get, highlighted by a quick and controlled transfer from tough body angles on the move. That transfer helps his plus arm strength play up even higher, and solidifies the profile as that of a potentially plus-plus defender at shortstop. —Wilson Karaman
Michael Gettys, OF, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore): Arm
I find that recalibrating my eye and taking in some higher-level minor league or major-league games in person really helps my evaluations for Low-A. It's important to see players at all stages of development and it helps keep the mind sharp. One of the main differences that stands out is what the warm up procedure looks like in the majors versus what it looks like at Low-A. In the majors the throws are crisp, the actions are sharp, and it looks like a polished and finished product. Low-A provides a rawer look at defensive actions and tools, so when a major-league double-plus arm comes across during infield/outfield, it has a tendency to stand out. A lot. Gettys has a special arm, the kind of arm you share videos of on YouTube if you can find a good angle, the kind of arm that makes you twist in your seat in excitement as the complete story of the individual throw, from gather to release to carry to glove to tag, is played out in front of you. It's the kind of arm whose gif or video could end up as a twitter bio one day. It's a damn good arm and it helps complete a profile which, if the hit tool gains he showed throughout the year are real, can be a really fun and special player with power, speed, defensive chops and a damn cannon for an arm. —Mauricio Rubio Jr.
There are not many occasions during a scouting season that you are able to write an 8 on your scouting card, but a Sandy Alcantara start is one of those occasions. Even in this era of increased velocity, Alcantara’s stands out. He combines a lightning quick arm and quality upper-body acceleration with a loose and easy delivery to post velocity readings that sit 93-97 and touching 99. What really makes his fastball stand out is his ability to hold the velocity deep into the games, as on multiple occasions he was sitting 96 in the seventh inning. Velocity is only one piece of the fastball equation and Alcantara’s fastball doesn’t disappoint in either of the movement and control portions. Despite the big-time velocity, which usually indicates a fastball that is relatively straight, Alcantara’s possesses enough wiggle at the plate to keep hitters from barreling it with regularity. Adding the velocity and movement to his ability to locate the pitch in the strike zone bodes well for his ceiling going forward. He flashes the ability to locate the pitch to all four quadrants of the zone and dials up the big velo up and out of the zone when he wants a whiff. You can take all of the components of the fastball and add them to Alcantara’s long, lanky frame that will continue to add strength, burgeoning secondary offerings and you have the makings of a front of the rotation monster for the Cardinals in a few years. —James Fisher
Dylan Cozens, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (Double-A Reading): Power
The best mix of raw and usable power in the minor leagues this season was Philadelphia’s Dylan Cozens. Statistically, there are a few ways you can contextualize how excited Phillies fans should be if he can keep tapping into his power. You could simply say that Dylan Cozens hit 40 homeruns as a 22-year-old at Double-A this year, leading all the minors. Or, you could say that the only other two prospects age-22-or-younger to hit 40 dingers in the high minors in the last decade were Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo (both in 2014).
That underscores how loud Cozens’ power really is, and I saw him put on power displays in both BP and games all season. In 2015, he focused exclusively on increasing his bat-to-ball skill, and while he struck out far less, he also generated less game power than ever before in his pro career. Cozens was more aggressive this season, tapping back into the huge power his athletic 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame allows from the left-hand side. His hard contact is explosive, giving him majestic fly ball power that plays to any part of the park. That said, reemphasizing his home run power in 2016 brought back plenty of strikeouts, and Cozens will likely always be a lower-average, raw-mashing type of producer at the big league level. His swing is power-oriented with some width and crouch in his base, though his long arms and uphill stroke add length to the bat’s path to contact. There’s reason to still wonder about the degree his power could play at the big league level; his swing shows consistently-exploitable holes at times, and he hit below the Mendoza Line against left-handed pitching. Not just a masher, the former dual-sport athlete and second-round pick can play on either outfield corner. When he’s underway, Cozens is an average runner with long, strong strides—and shows plus arm-strength from right field. —Adam McInturff
Luis Urias, 2B, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore): Hit
Urias won the Cal League MVP as one of its youngest regulars, and he did so largely on the strength of a league-best hit tool. After hitting “only” .278 in April, he hit over .300 in every subsequent month en route to winning the circuit’s batting title. I put a 55 on the hit tool in early June, noting superior hand-eye and barrel control, but citing his lack of strength or plane as potentially limiting factors against advanced pitching. After seeing him several more times in the season’s second half, I can confirm that those concerns were overwrought: this dude’s going to hit. He shows an innate ability to barrel pitches in all quadrants, with loose, whippy wrists that deliver his bat through the zone quickly and accurately. He matured in his ability to turn on pitches in and drive the ball down the line and shoot the left-centerfield gap, and even though power will never be a big part of his game he’s not a guy who pitchers are going to be able to exploit with hard stuff through the happy zone. If you’re looking for the next DJ LeMahieu type, who plays himself into an above-average regular on the back of his bat-to-ball skills, this is probably your guy. —Wilson Karaman
Yohel Pozo, C, Texas Rangers (Complex Level AZL): Barrel Control
Pozo made his stateside debut this summer after holding his own in the DSL for two seasons. The Venezuelan backstop celebrated his 19th birthday this past June, then went on to finish just three points shy of a batting title in the AZL. He’s listed at 6-foot, 175 lbs, but he’s probably right around 200. He looks the part of a catcher, with a strong, stocky build. He’s considered an above-average receiver, and he has not only a strong, accurate throwing arm, but also the confidence to throw behind runners in almost any situation. He has quick hands, which help behind the plate and in the batter’s box. He’s a very balanced hitter, and has an incredible knack for putting the bat on the ball. I saw him dump a single into shallow right field on a curveball around ankle high, about six inches off the plate. He finished the season with the lowest strikeout rate in the AZL, and the next lowest was nearly double his five percent mark. There isn’t much power to his game at the moment, and it’s likely he’ll never be much of a home run threat, but there’s something to be said about a guy who can put the ball in play on just about any pitch from just about any location. —Matt Pullman
Seuly Matias, OF, Kansas City Royals (Complex Level AZL): Bat Speed/Arm
A tall, wiry-strong outfielder with plus raw tools, Matias signed for over two million dollars out of the Dominican Republic last summer and only turned 18 this past September. He has a violent, right-handed swing with a worrisome tendency to pull off and miss badly, striking out in nearly 37 percent of his plate appearances in the AZL. He uses his long levers to generate outstanding bat speed, and hits the ball with authority when he makes contact. He has above-average speed for a guy listed at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, but he’s not a burner. He made some plays in the gap that show promise of potentially continuing to play centerfield, but he’s more likely to wind up in a corner, where he’d be an above-average defender. His hallmark defensive trait is his cannon for an arm, which would be more than adequate in right field. If he can tone down his swing and refine himself as a hitter, tapping into his raw power more selectively, Matias has legitimate star potential. He made strides as the season went on, striking out under 26 percent over the final month, and finished the year tied for the league lead in home runs with eight. —Matt Pullman
Jimmy Herget, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (High-A Daytona): Mustache/Movement
As the bottom of the 9th approaches, the opposing team, down by one knows who’s coming out of the bullpen. It’s time for the closer. They are going to bring in somebody intimidating, maybe someone with the antics of Al Hrabosky; the swagger of Carlos Marmol; or the personality of Brian Wilson. But instead walks someone you could confuse for McLovin, or Napolean Dynamite, and as you are watching him approach the mound you are thinking to yourself, “We got this, who is this pencil thin dude with specs on thinking he can finish this off?”. One batter after the next comes back, with either his hands in pain from being sawed off, or struck out like a fool on that mysterious breaking ball; they are thinking to themselves, “What just happened? How did this guy just make me look like a fool?
That is how Jimmy Herget’s appearances usually start and finish. Herget is an unusual pitcher, he adjusts his slot from low-three-quarters to sidearm, he can adjust his windup to fool with hitters timing, and he certainly doesn’t look the part. But his fastball, which ranges from 89-94 all year, had the best movement I have seen this year. It’s easily plus and could be higher, the run/sink he can manipulate on it to both sides jams hitters and results in extremely weak contact. But it’s not just his fastball you have to be weary of, his 78-80 slider results in some very awkward swings as it features plus depth and sweeping action. It plays off his fastball extremely well given the velo difference and its late breaking action. Sometimes, he can even drop what looks to be a big curveball at 72-73 and freeze hitters who had no idea he had this trick up his sleeve.
He is unconventional, he might be deemed quirky, and while he might never look the part of an intimidating presence; Herget has a big-league future confusing batters from the moment he steps on the mound. —Steve Givarz
J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
So technically this isn't the best tool I saw in the minors this year. I saw the usual assortment of 80 speed guys, a few guys flirting with 80 raw, and Jorge Alfaro’s arm, which is still an 80. I would probably only rate Crawford’s defense as a future 70, though with most of the standout defenders in the American League he should still contend for Gold Gloves. Don't get me wrong: it's really outstanding defense.
Crawford pairs above-average range with great instincts and excellent hands. He's not Francisco Lindor, yet who among us is? But why I'm listing him here is that more than any other tool of any significant prospect I've seen this year, Crawford's defense carries his profile. And that makes it the most impactful tool I saw in 2016. —Jarrett Seidler
Jose Alvarado, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (High-A Charlotte): Fastball
An international sign out of Venezuela, Alvarado has one of the biggest fastballs down here, but unfortunately lacks the tools for a pitcher to have success. Listed at 6-foot, 240 pounds, he is quite large and needs to monitor his weight going forward, but for now he works with it fine as it doesn't hinder his delivery. Alvarado gets his arm up quick with a high arm action and above-average arm speed with a three-quarters slot. His delivery does have some effort in it as he works quick and tends to lean towards the first-base side, hindering his overall balance. His fastball comes in between 95-98, touching 99, and plays as an elite offering not just because of its velo, but because of the heaviness which he throws it. Needless to say, it’s tough to make hard contact off it. Unfortunately his control and command are both 30s at present, as he hurts himself with walks and poor execution. The only other offspeed offering he showed was an 82-84 mph curveball that tended to be slurvy and roll in the zone. While it would flash average at times with some sharpness, the consistency leaves a lot to be desired. Alvarado has the type of velo and movement you can't teach, but needs to make big strides to become an effective reliever. —Steve Givarz